AUDIOBOOKS!

Standard

Hey, guys. Child of Fire is listed as Audible’s “Hidden Gem of the Week” and is available for only $4 right now. If you’re an audiobook fan (or know one) this is your chance to pick up a copy.

Also, there’s an audio copy of King Khan available. I’m listening to the free sample right now, and I’m flummoxed that more people haven’t tried this book.

Anyway, normal internetting will resume, now that I’m back from VACATION! Pics to come.

I receive books in the mail

Standard

DSC01262

Yep! The Fate books I pledged for on Kickstarter arrived, and so did my first ever author copies of one of my translated novels. The German language translation of CHILD OF FIRE turned up a mere four (?) years after selling the rights. Maybe it was only three years. Anyway, Russian, French, and I believe Polish books are still out there waiting to be mailed to me.

Roleplay Twenty Palaces!

Standard

Last night my Kickstarter hit 925 backers, unlocking Stretch Goal: Monitor, the second to last stretch goal. This morning we reached 1000 backers, which unlocked Stretch Goal, Mask, the very last one.

So I created something new: Stretch Goal: You. I encouraged backers to create their own stretch goals so they could create anything they wanted and share it with the other backers, if we hit their goal.

Already we have an indie composer who has promised 20P music, and…

Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue have promised that, if we reach 1200 backers, they will expand on the Voidcallers section of the FATE Toolkit to let people role play in a Twenty Palaces-style setting. See here.

I’ve said before that there was no need for me to create a 20P supplement because Voidcallers is already it. But if you want sample stunts, special character creation rules, the whole deal, you probably want to join in on this.

We’ve already gone far, far beyond anything I had a right to expect. Can we manage to hit this goal, too?

I have to run out for a meeting, if you can believe it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

And if you have something you want to share with the other backers, please do.

Progress report

Standard

Let’s see if I can briefly cover everything that’s been going on.

First, I’m revamping the Kickstarter page pretty thoroughly. As I mentioned before, I asked some folks with KS experience to check it over and I made a bunch of changes. Then my agent had a look and she told me that I was underselling everything. Like a lot of writers, I’m not the best advocate for my own work. She encouraged me to explain why the books are actually fun instead of, you know, doing the whole “Here’s a thing I wrote you might like it maybe” bit that writers do.

So, revisions. I have new text for the main page ready to go and I’ll be shooting a new video this week. As some of you folks know, I get ugly red blotches on my face when I eat certain foods, so I’m trying to be super careful about every meal until then. I don’t think it would help me make my goal to have leprosy face.

By the way, if you want to know when the Kickstarter launches before anyone else, you should sign up for my newsletter in the form on this page.

The print edition of TWENTY PALACES is still a few weeks off. Everything takes longer than you think it should. That’s the law.

Finally, while the Kindle version of TWENTY PALACES is still only $2.99, there’s a sale price of $5.99 for CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, and CIRCLE OF ENEMIES. If you read from the Kindle and have been meaning to pick up some or all of my books, you’re not going to get a better price.

I recommend starting with the prequel, although I wrote each book to stand alone.

There are shiny new ideas for me to work on, but I have so much revision and other work ahead of me that I don’t expect to get to any of it before the end of the year. Yeah, that sucks; we only get so many productive years in this life, but it needs doing.

More later.

Long Overdue: Amazon MatchBook and What It Means For Me

Standard

(Announcement buried below)

If someone from Del Rey/Random House is reading this, please feel free to put my books into Amazon’s MatchBook program.

If you haven’t heard of this new program, it works like this: For publishers who sign on to the program, readers who buy (or have bought) a physical book from Amazon.com will have the opportunity to also buy the ebook edition at a discounted price. Some books will be as low as $2.99, some will be free.

So, if you bought CHILD OF FIRE when it came out in 2009, you could (if Del Rey signs the contract) pick up an ebook copy for cheap.

I’ve already seen some authors speaking against this deal. They don’t like the bundling and they earn part of their living from people who buy replacement copies for books that wear out.

Another strike against is the fact that I could buy a copy of a book, give it to my buddy Jim as a gift, then pick up a cheap/free version for myself.

Yeah, what Amazon is doing is selling the content, but what the have the right to sell is the copy. The whole point of copyright is that I make copies of my IP and sell them to people who want to buy them; if I’m selling the right for another person to make more copies, that person is a publisher and we need to have a publishing deal.

Except that model has been under serious strain for a long time. It’s now trivially easy to make copies of other people’s work, and some people can be amazingly clueless about it:

“Help me download a copy of your book without paying you!” I mean, Jesus.

But these are just bumps in the road. I think that selling the content over the copy is the way of the future and I’m surprised it took so long for a program like MatchBook to get started. Yes, the readers who want an author to fix their torrents are annoying. Yeah, getting a free copy of a book you intend to give away is a pretty nice deal.

It’s good promotion, though. There are a handful of books out there that won’t need it, but most do. I don’t blame any author for shying away from this deal, but I think that, overall, it will be a good thing for those who sign up.

I also strongly suspect that this is part of a plan to drive self-publishers to CreateSpace, which they should have been doing anyway.

What’s that? you say. How can you talk about using CreateSpace when TWENTY PALACES is still ebook only?

Well, here’s the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Lately, with the help of a saint of a human being, I’ve been working on creating a paper edition of TWENTY PALACES. If you’ve never read it because (like me) you don’t read ebooks, you will soon get a chance. Also: to buy a copy for your friends. Also: to buy a copy for your friends and get a discounted ebook for yourself.

The book won’t be available for some weeks yet; there’s still a lot to do. Frankly, one of the reasons I’m prepping this is to buffer the budget for my upcoming Kickstarter on The Great Way (I wrote a status post about that over the weekend). The other is so we’ll get to have Christmas this year. Yeah, it’s getting to be like that.

But… MatchBook: I’m surprised it took this long and while I expect there to be bumps, this should be a great thing.

Five Quick Publishing Links And One Long One

Standard

Let’s round up a bit of publishing this and that with some links and brief comment. Very brief, in face, since today’s a big writing day.

1) Remember way back in the misty dawn of yesterday morning when I pointed out that Paula Deen, having been dropped by one corporate partner after another, saw her next cookbook shoot to the top of the Amazon.com bestseller list even though it doesn’t come out until October? And that her last book was sitting pretty in the number two spot?

Well, that upcoming book isn’t listed on Amazon anymore because Random House cancelled the contract.

Yeah, they had a lot of pre-orders through the online giant, but if Wal-Mart, Target, et al were no longer willing to carry her work, the P&L must have looked pretty dire.

2) Hey, did you guys know that, in the original submission draft of Child of Fire (then called Harvest of Fire) Ray Lilly wept for the child who was so horrifyingly transformed and destroyed in that first chapter? Completely true. The kid died of an acute case of Evil Magic, his own family forgot he ever existed to the point of denying him, and Ray mixed up his feelings about the kid’s unmourned loss with his own imminent unmourned death. Then he wept.

This was the first thing my editor asked me to change. She said it made the character seem weak, and one of the other readers at the publisher immediately assumed Ray was a woman (it’s a first-person narrative, for those who haven’t read it, so there were no helpful pronouns).

Me, I hated the idea of changing that bit, because if a tough guy can’t weep over a dead child, what the fuck?

Still, was this the hill I would fight and die on? My first note in the first chapter of my first published book?

So I turned to a mailing list of readers, writers and friends to ask them what they thought. The overwhelming majority of the responses were along the lines of: “The main character is a guy? And he cries? Sounds sketchy.”

I was surprised and disappointed. I also thought it was a bullshit assumption, but if it was so wide-spread, was I really the one to fight it? So I revised that part of my book (whole chapter available here) like this:

I watched them go, feeling my adrenaline ebb. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little boy, or how fiercely hot the flames had been. I looked down at my own undamaged hands. I felt woozy and sick.

Annalise called my name again. I turned away, ran to the edge of the lot, and puked into the bushes.

When that was over, I had tears in my eyes from the strain of it. They were the only tears that little boy was ever going to get. I tried to spit the acid taste out of my mouth, but it wouldn’t go away.

I wiped my eyes dry. My hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. That kid had no one to mourn for him except me, and I didn’t have that much longer in this world, either. Something had to be done for him. I didn’t know what it was, but as I wiped at my eyes again, I knew there had to be something.

I heard footsteps behind me. “Don’t get maudlin,” Annalise said.

That passed muster, apparently, because Ray’s eyes well up from tossing his cookies and totally not because he is feeling grief, horror and loss.

Why am I bringing this up? Because this is the proverbial stopped clock in Rod Rees thoroughly embarrassing blog post on whether men can write female characters. (Update: the post seems to have been taken down.)(Now it’s back.)

That link was making the rounds yesterday while the whole Frenkel/harassment issue was going on so I didn’t give it much attention until later. Yeesh, is it a tone deaf mess.

However, on this topic I will say: just because the stereotypes male characters face limit you doesn’t justify using the stereotypes female characters face.

3) But there’s more bullshit in that Rod Rees post, but rather than try to pick it all apart, I’m going to link to someone who’s done a fantastic job already.

I’ll just add that Rees seems like a pretty terrible writer, based on the samples and on the content of his post, but I suspect he’s terrible in a way that will earn him a bit of success. Still, someone should explain to him that certain scenes will break reader disbelief not because of the characters or behaviors the scene describes, but because of the way they’re written. Word choice is character, too, and it matters.

4) In even stranger news, Weird Tales has begun releasing unpublished stories back to the authors. Not due to quality, either; several of the stories have been described as excellent in the past. They’re doing it because they have a backlog of fiction and the pressure to open to new submissions has been intense.

I’m not even sure what to say about this. A magazine is not its slush pile. Still, if the publisher and editor is missing the thrill of going to conventions and meeting people who are desperate to be published in their pages, maybe they could put out a few issues. Maybe they could publish those stories rather than return them.

Why did these guys want this magazine in the first place?

5) Can I just make mention of how humble and grateful I am that folks are so kindly pledging in my name for the Clarion West Write-a-thon? So far, we have raised almost $400 for the workshop and I really didn’t expect so much. It’s a great cause. Thank you all for pledging.

6) Have I mentioned something crazy? When you write a lot, books get done faster. I know, right? The Great Way is nearing completion at a much faster pace that I expected. In fact, I’m entering the series of climactic confrontations about three hundred words from now. Then the first draft will be done and I can start fretting over the Kickstarter.

Passing into a new world: Portal fantasy

Standard

Rachel Manija Brown posted something provocative about so-called “portal fantasy.” For those who didn’t click the link: essentially it’s a Narnia-style story, in which a person or persons from our mundane world is transported to a second-world fantasy setting. Apparently, agents reject those stories at the query stage without ever requesting a full manuscript, and the reasons described in the post (all frustratingly second-hand) strike me as extraordinarily bogus.

They’re talking about non-adult books: YA and MG, but I don’t remember seeing a lot of adult-oriented portal fantasies.

But it’s only after I read a post on Making Light that I realize I myself have been All Over Portals in my books.

Now, that Making Light post is talking about Fantasy With Portals In Them rather than Portal Fantasies, which is not exactly a subtle distinction. For one thing, modern person transported to fantasy world setting is a very specific thing. Still, Circle of Enemies and Twenty Palaces both contain literal portals in which Things Intrude Into Our World, and the other two books have implied portals.

What’s more, EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS is full of portals; the barely-Iron-Age society conducts trade through them and they are the center of the plot.

It’s not portal fantasy, per se, but… is this my subconscious calling to me? Has the online discussion finally made me look into my heart and realize that what I’ve really longed to do all this time was write a book about a mafia hitman transported to pseudo-Narnia? Or a pipe-fitter in Osgiliath?

Well, maybe not, but it’s fun to think about.

One year anniversary of the end of 20 Palaces

Standard

I’m writing this ahead of time because I expect to be hanging with my son at the tournament when this posts, but today is exactly one year since I announced that Del Rey would not be picking up any new Twenty Palaces novels and that I was putting the series on hiatus, with all the ominous implications of the word.

And that fucking post is still the most popular thing on my blog. More people have read about my failure than ever read my books.

What has changed since then? Well, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark is on indefinite hold. The book itself is a major misfire–not in concept but in execution. It needs a massive rewrite before it’s ready to be shown anywhere and that’s not a very high priority for me right now.

What about Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts? aka A Blessing of Monsters? Well, shit. We’ll see, won’t we? One big change is that I seriously underestimated the amount of story there; what I’d planned to complete in one volume is not, in fact, complete after 140K words. So it will become two books. Possibly three. We’ll see what my publisher says, assuming I find one for it.

As for me, I’m working on a Twenty Palaces short story, which won’t be told from Ray’s POV. I’m hoping to have it finished soonest so I can get to work on Epic Sequel With No Dull Parts. I’m still waiting on editorial notes for King Khan, the game tie-in book I wrote for Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century role-playing game, and that will likely be the only book release for me in 2013.

I know. 2012 saw only two anthologies: Don’t Read This Book and Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and next year will almost certainly be a single game tie-in novel. I like all of that work and I’m proud of it, but I need to put out original novel-length fiction if I want to keep my career going.

A letter to Baby Author Me

Standard

On her blog, novelist Ally Carter wrote a letter she wished she could send to herself back when she was just starting out. I thought it was funny and interesting enough that I stole the idea. Being me, this particular letter might not have the wide applicability that Ms. Carter’s does but I’ll share it anyway: a letter to myself in 2008.

First of all, old self, today isn’t the day your agent sent your first book on submission. That was back in mid-January some time. So yeah, this is late. Then again, you’re the guy who received a birthday card that his sister had bought for his birthday the year before then never got around to sending. You’re a Connolly; you’re used to it.

Second of all, Twenty Palaces was not rejected because of the story. It was the writing. You haven’t realized this yet, but you’d be better off not sending it to your agent or editor. The truth is, you made a big leap in your understanding of the language while you were revising Harvest of Fire, and you haven’t realized yet how rough that earlier book is. Seriously. Keep it to yourself until after you have a chance to revise it.

Third, don’t bother scrounging for reviews. Interviews are great. Definitely do that Big Idea piece for John Scalzi. Guest blogging is also cool (in fact, ask around if anyone would like you to guest blog).

But that thing where you spend hours and hours looking for reviewers, working out what sort of books they review, try to judge their readership, contact them and mail off books? Just don’t even bother. You’d be better off spending that time working on new books or being funny online.

In fact, being funny and/or interesting online is really the best marketing you can do. Have fun with that and skip the reviewers. The ones that find and review your work on their own will be good enough, but beyond that it’s too big a time sink.

Fourth, you aren’t really going to find yourself joining a new community of writers and genre fans, the way so many others seem to. Don’t worry about it.

Fifth, and last, I’m not going to spill the beans about how well your books are going to do, but I will say this: Write the books the way you think they should be written, and don’t agonize about it too much. Whether you succeed or fail, you’ll at least be doing it on your own terms.

Okay, that wasn’t the last. Here’s the last: You’ve worked pretty hard to get to this spot, but you’re going to have to work even harder to stay there.

Audiobook for CHILD OF FIRE, if you can believe it.

Standard

I’ve been sitting on this news for about two weeks as I tried to get some further information on it, but SDCC is this week and I’m not going to wait any more.

Child of Fire is out in audiobook right now.

Now, I didn’t know this was going to happen. I didn’t even know there was a audio deal in the works. I went back to my email and searched for the word “audio” and found that the only mention was back in September 2009, when my agent mentioned in passing that she had received a note of interest from an audiobook company, which she forwarded to the publisher (since Del Rey had retained the rights).

After that, I never heard a thing about it until last month when I went to Amazon.com to create a link to the book and notices a new line in the “editions” box. I know there are some authors who are pretty heavily involved in the creation of their audiobooks, but I knew so little about it that I’ve been telling people there was no chance of an audiobook because of low sales.

So! The question you might be asking is “What about Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies? Will they be out as audiobooks, too?”

Unfortunately the answer is still “I don’t know yet.” I’m still waiting to hear back, and I don’t expect an answer on the week of (or after) SDCC. However, when I do hear, I’ll blog about it.

I should also mention, apropos to yesterday’s post about whether book reviews actually sell many books, that the initial note of interest was based on early positive reviews, so reviews can have that sort of positive benefit at least.

By the way, author and bookseller Michele Sagara weighed in on the review conversation yesterday on my LJ. She’s a smart person and if you don’t follow her you should.